The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just Opened Dec. 19th - Welcome Yule!

We have a mix of new releases that will take us into the New Year, and Christmas releases from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir & Sursum Corda.
Zalaznik's Official Site

with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra
Hinko Haas & Maria Hens Serena, pianos
ISBN# 3 760035 68055
My Delight of the Week! The musical variety of this CD is captivating.  She started recording for Slovene national radio as early as the age of 9, and has followed the path of great music schools and awards.  In addition to solo and chamber works, Zalaznik Matos has been a regular member of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra for 8 years.   Both Paganini and Mozart are a special musical interest for her, demonstrated on this CD, which is dedicated to her father, who died in 2013.  This combination of heartfelt personal dedication, musical scope and performance excellence made my choice this week easy.

Sibelius Symphony No. 2 &
Wagner Overture to Tannhauser
Andris Nelson, Music Director
BSO 292
ISBN# 8 28020 00292 3
BSO homepage
Nelson's first CD with the BSO is the evokative music of Sibelius.  As many of you know, fewer big symphonic releases are being made, so here you get to indulge your orchestral craving and support a major orchesta.   Sibelius' music is said to be like a sleighride across the fiord, and here this major work is paired with Wagner's majestic Tannhauser overture.

Choral Favorites for Christmas
Sursum Corda
Lester Seigel, cond.
MSR 1485
ISBN#6 50585
Official Site for Sursum Corda
This 20 member vocal ensemble has been singing together since 2006 and receiving accolades since their inception.  This CD or both popular and traditional religious Christmas favorites also includes 4 movements of Marc Antoine Charpentier's "Mass for Christmas Midnight" which lends them even more gravitas and musical beauty. The singers are all highly, individually accomplished, and their conductor Seigel has led the BSC Concert Choir in performances in Austria, the Czech Republic, and at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. His choral music is published by Oxford University Press.  Those are, of course, the credentials, but the timeless exquisite music is the reason you'll want to remember this one.

CHOPIN - 24 Preludes
Alain Lefevre, piano
ISBN# 7 74204 92872 8
Official site for Lefevre
He began playing piano at 4, began lessons at 5, and at 6 years old, he wins the 1st Prize at the Canadian Music Competition and gives his first recital at the Grand Théatre in Quebec city.  Canadian pianist Levevre has the kind of career that Liszt established as a goal for musicians.  International travel and acclaim, performing with the best orchestras in the world, having won a handful of international prizes along the way.  So here he turns to solo piano works from one of the most introspective and personal artists ever to write for piano, Chopin.   The CD notes give some insights into the way artists can and do approach these large volume collections of works, both musically and historically.  Lefevre's performances of many of these are considered ground-breaking, but these pieces are so much an intrinsic part of piano repertoire that even that kind of re-thinking merely becomes another mode of making these works of the intensely personal Chopin even more personal - foundational romantic works for the self expression of an artist.  In this case, an accomplished mature artist.  The collection of deep, intense romanticism is rounded off with a crisp wafer - a baroque Sonata Cantabile by Antonio Soler.  Being a devote of Chopin myself, I can only express joy in hearing another great "take" on these essential works.  Recordings like this of Chopin solo works are a timeless gift that will carry on through the year.

Alfie Boe and
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
MTC 1327 (2013)
Official site of Mormon Tabernacle Choir
By now, many of our listeners will have heard and seen "Home for the Holidays" both last year and this year on local PBS stations.  Available in both CD and DVD formats, this CD was provided to WSCL a few weeks ago.  The long history of musical excellence and high production standards of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and guests is now so depended on that we can sometimes overlook this national treasure.  This CD is available through their website, along with a great wealth of their other musical offerings, past and current.

Merry Christmas to you!
Kara Dahl Russell

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Just Opened, Friday December 12th, 2014

Great Music for Christmas comes in many forms and styles.   Today we have Renee Fleming's jazzy new release with a lot of crossover guests, Steinway Artist Jeffrey Biegel's piano Christmas CD, and some all-season baroque music that sits well during the holidays and all year 'round.

Piano Music for the Season
Jeffrey Biegel, piano
Steinway & Sons 30005
ISBN#0 34062 30005 1
The Official site for Jeffrey Biegel
My Delight of the Week.  Jeffrey Biegel is a favorite of mine, incredible talent, boundless enthusiasm, a lover of traditional works and great supporter and performer of new works - all that, and a very charming, engaging person as well.   We have recently aired his more current Steinway release, "A Grand Romance" that focuses on large and small salon gems.  This is 2011 release that we had not previously received here at the station, and we are grateful that he (and Steinway) were willing to add it to our library this year, just in time for you to hear it and add it to your timeless collection.  For many, they want Christmas music, but don't always want the distraction of voices and lyrics.   This collection of beautiful arrangements of traditional favorites for piano is sure to be a much desired stocking stuffer - supplying the seasonal joy and the "simplicity" of piano excellence. 

Baroque Band
Garry Clarke, harpsichord (and Art. Dir.)
ISBN# 7 15131 91522 9
Baroque Band's Official Website
In 2008 Baroque Band became the first-ever resident orchestra of WFMT classical music station (and national supplier of programs for classical music stations like WSCL).   Not to be confused with the musclebound American football star, British composer Maurice Greene lived from 1696 - 1755 and along with Haendel, was one of the most important musical figures in English music of the 18th century.  He had been appointed to every major musical post in England before the age of 40, but today is known mostly - if at all - for his choral music.  This is a rare recording foray into his orchestral overtures and solo harpsichord works.  The "old-timey-ness" of Baroque music suits the season well when one is tired of the better known Holiday fare, and will continue into the new year with ease.  What a lovely way to renew a musical acquaintance.

Renee Fleming (and friends)
DECCA 21104
ISBN# 0 28947 86770 8
Fleming's official website
I can hear my commercial agent in L.A clucking his tounge and saying of this CD, "Renee Fleming is destroying her brand!"  While most WSCL listeners would rather hear Fleming singing great areas and very traditional arrangements of great seasonal works for "great voices," to be fair, Fleming has been branching out in jazz crossover for a while, and this is just another example of it.   Working with "above the title" big names of jazz and folk crossover, she gives a saucy spin on traditional Christmas favorites, and throws in
a few other pieces as well.  Wynton Marslais, Gregory Porter, Kelli O'Hara, Rufus Wainwright, Brad Mehldau, and Kurt Elling are her musical co-conspirators who bring you this urban and urbane take on "Christmas in New York."  Realistically, Fleming is at the stage of her career where she HAS to "mix it up"... she's still lovely, but she most likely won't be playing the little mermaid Rusalka again, and she has the name, the clout, and the fan base to explore other parts of her musical interests.  Opera singers notoriously flop at singing pop and jazz, but Fleming is more versatile than most and utilizes the molasses richness of her lower register to fine indolent effect. This is probably not going to be on the Christmas list for the hard-line Classical Music lovers, despite Fleming's presence, but for many, this will be a new facet of Fleming that they will enjoy, and will undoubtedly be another selection that will introduce "people who don't like Classical music" to her engaging voice and presence and give them an entre to her other, more prominent body of work.

Join us next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Rusell

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just Opened - Dec. 5, 2014

As I have mentioned, this year seems to be seeing less "Christmas Music" releases and more releases of special sets that will have a listening life much longer than the holidays.  Today we have some choices for Hanukkah giving, Christmas and Holiday music, and timeless works that make for timeless presents. 

New Budapest Orpheum Society
CEDILLE 90000 151
ISBN # 7 35131 91512 0
New Budapest Orpheum Society website
My Delight of the Week!  Anyone who loves musical theatre history will enjoy the broad spectrum of early (mostly German and German-American) theatre music by Jewish artists.   That focus makes this two CD set is a natural for Hanukkah gift-giving as well.  A fascinating look back into the music from both sides of the ocean as well as the new-immigrant experience, essential roots of Broadway.

Frank Voltz, harpist
ISBN # 6 35759 17282 3
 Official Website of Frank Voltz
 Frank Voltz is one of those musical wunderkinds who plays organ, piano, and harp, performs regularly on all of them, composes, and ... as showcased on this CD of pedal and lever harp, he arranges traditional works in ways that are often exciting and always engaging and entertaining.  This is Christmas harp music the way people dream of it, and hope for it to fill their holiday, a perfect stocking stuffer.

Andrew Rangell, piano
ISBN #0 34062 30038 9
Some bio tidbits and info. on recital performances of this CD.
Solo piano works speak to the soul like few other musical mediums, and the works of Chopin speak to the inner life like few other composers.  Andrew Rangell has had a magnificent career, and shares some of these heartfelt Chopin pieces in his most recent (of many) Steinway and Sons release.

Jonathan Cohler, clarinet
Rasa Vitkauskaite,  piano
ISBN# 7 672738 01252 5
Official website for Vitkauskaite
Official website of Cohler
Two gifted soloists join forces on these works by American Composers whose influences range from latin music to klezmer.

TURNIA:  Chamber Music 
For Stings and Piano
Lincoln Trio
ISBN # 7 35131 91502 1
Official website for the Lincoln Trio
Spanish born, French trained Turina made the most of both worlds with infectious, melodic music infused with a sense of Spanish folk tunes.   The Lincoln Trio has been garnering awards and critical acclaim, and this is sure to add to their steam - and a great way to add some musical spice to your Holiday gift-giving.

Tune in next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Build a Piano - Prepared Piano

Today we talked about, and listened to John Cage's music, including 2 short works for "prepared piano."  While we gave you a definition and description of how the piano is prepared, this youtube video done by a teacher from New England Conservatory will give you an even better concept of how these sounds are achieved in Cage's work.

How a "prepared piano" is prepared. (click here)

While you are there on youtube, at the right, you'll be offered many selections of prepared piano works to listen to, and related videos.

Kara Dahl Russell

Just Opened - November 28th, 2014

Let the Holiday Season Begin.  Today we have a mixture of releases, traditional Christmas carols by the Medieval Baebes;  Hebrew/Prayer inspired works by Mohammed Fairouz, a 2CD set of Bach's French Suites and a 5! CD set of guitarist Sharon Isbin.  I have mentioned that this year, we seem to be receiving very few releases of actual Christmas and/or Holiday music, and instead there seem to have been many "big" releases, big names, and gift sets, intended for gift-giving.

Just my little reminder that if you are giving music this season (to yourself or others) please buy the CD to support the artist.  (Downloads and streams have much less income revenue for the artists.)

5 Classic Albums
WARNER 24364 8
5 CD Set
ISBN# 8 25646 24364 8
Taking notes for your holiday gift giving?  This is sure to be a favorite with tremendous cross-over appeal.  American guitarist Isbin has been recognized around the world, and her talent and fame have allowed her to play in every genre imaginable.  Each of these CDs has been released separately, but this gift set puts them together in a powerful testament to her versaitility and love of music.  The Cds include the great, beloved  guitar concertos with orchestra, Baroque favorites for guitar (with a variety of guest musicians), 2 modern guitar concertos, folk-inspired music for guitar from around the world, and a CD of mostly latin music for quitar and saxophone with percussion.  Something here for everyone, and a great way again to introduce the "non-classical" music person to a mix of works including works that will make them sit up and say "I didn't realize that is classical music, I love that!"

The Six French Suites
Sergey Shepkin, piano
2 CD set
ISBN# 0 34062 30046 4
My Delight of the Week!  With the CD Shepkin embarks on a mission to record all of Bach's works for solo piano, and this is a lovely place to start.   The French suites are full of melody and Shepkin's playing is intensely nuanced.  This CD also includes two additional Bach works, one of them recorded twice, on different Steinways of different periods, to allow for a tonal comparison of the pianos.  An exquisite gift for the musical purist.

Mohammed Fairouz
DSL 92177
ISBN # 0 53479 21772 1
Official Website of Mohammed Fairouz 
A choral offering for Hanukkah:   Fairous has been hailed as the new Franz Schubert for his choral works, and this choral symphony, Poems and Prayers is sure to strike a chord of harmony.  His works blend elements from Hebrew/Israeli and Arab culture are intended to emphasize the commonality of faith.  The sections of the choral symphony are Kaddish, Lullaby, Minyan, Night Fantasy, Oseh Shalom, and closes with Memorial Day for the War Dead.  This CD opens with a marvelous work for Clarinet and Orchestra (featuring David Krakauer) called Tahrir.

A Christmas Carol Collection
Mediaeval Baebes
ISBN # 5 018791 111251
Official Website of Mediaeval Baebes
The Mediaeval Baebes use mediaeval source material and original instrument back ups.  Founding member Katharine Blake does many of the arrangements and other members play early instruments while others have regular jobs and other singing gigs.   While they bill themselves as as a "classical choral group" and some of their members have traditional legit voice training, their singing placement style is most often the style called "natural" (similar to the breathy sound of Celtic Woman).   It's a compelling combination of legitimate early music artistry, pop vocal style and the sex appeal of a female chorus of young attractive women in arty attire.   It reminds me a bit of some of the historically "creative" pursuits of renaissance faires or "goddess worship" that may have a lot more to do with a modern slant on history than on researched material.  Our more "serious" listeners will be unhappy with the vocal style, but for many, this is just the ticket for holiday choral music with a nod to history and tradition.

Thanks again to our SU practicum student Stephanie Clark for pulling together the pics and info. to make your musical web-surfing more easy.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, November 21, 2014

Just Opened - November 21, 2014

A major release and some off-the-beaten-path releases, modern compositions for violin and orchestra, and for harpsichord, Russian Romantics for brass, and the pleasure of the guitar... all... Just Opened!

Anne Akiko Meyers 
London Symphony Orchestra
ISBN # 0 99923 77912 4 
Official Website of Anne Akiko Meyers
The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin provide the backdrop for the outstanding solo artistry of Anne Akiko Meyers on this CD that focuses on the work of "modern" American composers.  The delicious melody of the Barber Violin Concerto is enough to attract any listener, and the Lullabye by Corigliano was actually written for Anne's child, and is unusually melodic for his music.  The Bates work will be new to most listeners.  Bates was a student of Corigliano, and this is one of his most frequently performed works, with fascinating and fun syncopations.   Akiko Meyers is justifiably becoming a world-wide favorite, with several of her recent releases hitting #1 on the Billboard charts.

Johnna Jeong
ISBN # 6 42820 01582
Official Website of Johnna Jeong
This debut release from guitarist Jeong is a pleasure, and will appeal to a wide variety of listeners.  Jeong's electic musical taste is reflected in the variety of works that flow from traditional classical guitar into the borders of folk, and of jazz.  Her degrees are from Virginia Commonwealth University and East Carolina University.  She performs regularly in a variety of venues, live and as a studio musician, she teaches and composes.  The packaging of this CD is very pretty, a nice reflection of the pretty mix of music here that is both smart and entertaining.

Pictures at an Exhibition
Fine Arts Brass Ensemble
Nimbus 5645
ISBN # 7 10357 56452 9
Official Website of Fine Arts Brass Ensemble
Most of our listeners know that I love brass, and these transcriptions for brass make it easy to love.  The major work here is the well-known "Pictures at an Exhibition."  It has been transcribed for solo piano and many other groupings aside from its well-loved orchestral form, so it is perfectly in keeping... and works quite well to arrange it for brass - especially since the repeated promenade is so prominent.  All the composers here are Russian, which makes for a nice grouping, and high romantic-era melodic content.

Elaine Funaro, harpsichord
CRC 2651
ISBN # 0 44747 2651 24
Official Website of Elaine Funaro
My Delight of the Week!   Funaro is an established name in the international world of harpsichord.  She infuses her love of the history and tradition of the instrument with a passion for solidifying the future of the instrument by having new works created for it.  This is a very accessible CD of new works for harpsichord, most of them somewhat based in classical forms, and most of them -while new compositions by new composers - are very melodic and easy to listen to time and again.  A real joy for anyone who appreciates keyboard works, and the special soundworld of the harpsichord.

Thanks again to our SU practicum Stephanie Clark for her help pulling together the pictures and information for this blog post.
Kara Dahl Russell

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Build a Piano - The Lutheal

Not exactly where the piano is "going,"  since it made the side trip and decided quickly to come back to "normal." We have an aside to our after-the-news-at-noon series this month "How to Build a Piano," is one of the early "prepared" pianos:  the piano-lutheal.  

Here is a link with photos and sound clips describing this "extension" of a normal piano.   Violinist Daniel Hope compared it to a typewriter attached to the piano...   Developed in 1919, it was part of the craze for gypsy and "turkish" sounding music.  Ravel wrote his Tzigane (gypsy) pieces for it.

Click here to see short article with photos & sound clips of a piano-lutheal.

We hope you are enjoing our series on the development and growth of the piano!
Kara Dahl Russell


The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Public Radio Delmarva, its staff, members, underwriters, Salisbury University, or the Salisbury University Foundation. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official.